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Safer Cosmetics & Personal Care Products

how to choose safer drugs and cosmetics

Avoid products that commonly have harmful ingredients

Perfumes, colognes, and after shave, as well as nail polish, typically contain phthalates. If you do use nail polish, do so outside or in a well-ventilated area. Avoid hair coloring products that contain lead acetate or coal-tar colors.

Check ingredients in products that you buy

Some harmful ingredients are listed on the label.  Avoid products that contain Teflon, PTFE, and ‘fragrance’.  Even if a product is advertised as fragrance-free, look at the ingredient list and make sure that ‘fragrance’ is not included. 

To find out whether the products you are using, or considering using, contain harmful chemicals, look them up in the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Database.  If you have many products to research, you may want to prioritize those that remain in contact with skin for longer periods, such as lotions, deodorant, and some types of makeup.

The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics has a list of companies that have signed the Compact for Safe Cosmetics, an agreement to phase out ingredients linked with long-term health effects within three years.

Avoid antibacterials

Avoid hand soaps marketed as ‘antibacterial’: scrubbing hands with hot water and plain soap is just as effective. Antibacterial soaps have little effect against viruses and therefore don’t protect against colds or the flu any more than ordinary soap. The overuse of antibacterial products can lead to germs that are harder to kill.


Be wary of claims that products are ‘natural’: such claims do not guarantee that products are free of harmful chemicals. Always check the ingredients.

Reduce your exposure

Consider using fewer products, and using them less often: this will reduce your overall exposure to harmful chemicals in cosmetics and personal-care products.

Resources for more information:

The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics

Fact sheets:

from Washington Toxics Coalition:

from The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics: